Is it not a hard rule that verbs take être when followed by a preposition? In this phrase, I used avoir, which was wrong but there is no preposition that I can see: Quand vous y (êtes or avez) retourné, le corps avait disparu. Seems like retourner is followed by a noun. I use this method to determine quickly which auxiliary to use so would like to know if there are exceptions. Many thanks.
All the intransitive verbs of 'retour' take the auxiliary être :
rentrer, retourner, revenir
In the sentence you quote :
"Quand vous y êtes retourné, le corps avait disparu"= When you returned there, the body had disappeared
The noun ( corps) is the subject of avait disparu, a separate clause, separated by a coma. The verb 'retourner' has no object and it is intransitive as 'rentrer' and 'revenir' in the following examples:
Je suis retourné/e à Paris = I have gone back to Paris
Je suis rentré/e pour lui parler = I came home to speak to him/her
Je suis revenu/e après elle = I came back after her
The verb 'retourner' is 'special' as it can sometimes be transitive and have an object :
Retourner quelque chose = to turn something upside down/to turn something inside out
Hope this clears the confusion...
Liz, I have added further comments in another discussion that may help. Although it seems in your example that it meets the condition from the lesson «When retourner is followed immediately by a noun (as opposed to a preposition), it uses avoir as the auxiliary, like most verbs», it doesn't as the noun is not the direct object of retourner, but the subject of the 2nd clause in the sentence. That could be a little more clearly explained in the lesson perhaps.
I’m puzzled by Cécile’s answer "Retourner quelque chose = to take something back/ to turn something upside down/to turn something inside out" as the lesson takes pains to emphasise that you don’t use retourner for taking something back. Can you clarify?
Well spotted Anne! Having double-checked with colleagues in France you wouldn't really use 'retourner' for a garment for instance you might say -
With e-commerce you would use 'renvoyer = to send back )
I will adjust my answer (thank you for pointing this out ).
You might find the following page with different uses of 'retourner' interesting -
Sign in to submit your answer
Don't have an account yet? Join today
Test your French to the CEFR standard